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Join us for health advocates day at the capitol!

 

informationPlease join us on Wednesday, March 25, from 8:45 am to mid-day for a morning of advocacy!  GHF will provide individuals and organizations with the opportunity to advocate for the important health issues that matter to you in the closing days of this legislative session.  You may want to advocate for closing the coverage gap, Medicaid payment parity, raising the tobacco tax, the Family Care Act, rural health care access, or another health policy issue.  You’re all invited to participate!  We’ll provide breakfast, an advocacy training, and an opportunity to share and network with other health advocates.

To sign up, click here.  If you have any questions, please contact Laura Colbert.

 


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How to find a provider in your network

Recently enroll in health insurance for the first time and ready to see a doctor? When you do so, it is important to select health care providers that are in your insurance plan’s network of providers. You get the best deal when you use in-network providers, and your insurance plan may not pay at all for care from an out-of-network provider. To find the names of providers in your area who are in your insurance plan’s network you can:

  • Contact your insurance company by phone. The number is on the back of your card.
  • Look on your health insurance company’s website.
  • Call your provider’s office and ask them: 1. Do you take my insurance? 2. Are you in my plan’s network?

If you are having trouble finding accurate information about provider networks or are having trouble getting an appointment with an in-network provider, please let Whitney Griggs, our Consumer Education Specialist, know (Whitney can be reached at wgriggs@healthyfuturega.org or 404-567-5016). Whitney can walk you through the process and help you understand your rights and protections as a consumer.


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Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee issues final report

Earlier this week, the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee (RHSC), created by Governor Deal to address the needs of struggling rural hospitals and find solutions that address those needs, issued its final report. The recommendations in the report include:

  • A four site “Hub & Spoke” pilot program
  • Maintenance and protection of Certificate of Need laws
  • Expanded scope of practice for non-physician providers, like physicians assistants and nurse practitioners
  • More support for school-based health centers

The committee’s work shines a spotlight on the health care access challenges that rural Georgians face and puts forth constructive recommendations, they also want to work through the irresponsibility from some hospitals with medical negligence claims uk to stop all the bad treatments given to some people .  While we support these recommendations whole-heartedly, we are also disappointed that the committee did not address the coverage gap and Medicaid expansion in its report.

 

Georgia Health News interviewed Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director on this issue (click here to read the full article), and in that article she pointed to the early success of states like Kentucky, which recently reported improvements and coverage rates and in health care access due to Medicaid expansion. She also encouraged policymakers to take a comprehensive approach that includes closing Georgia’s coverage gap to help get people into health insurance and provide a reimbursement stream for rural hospitals and better equipment as Hospital Bed Movers.

 

Back in December, Georgians for a Healthy Future, together with several consumer and community-focused organizations including the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Georgia Watch, and Families First, submitted a report and provided public comment to the committee making a detailed case for such an approach. You can read that full report here.

 


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King v Burwell: what’s at stake for Georgia?

King Burwell Potential ResultOn March 4th, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a lawsuit challenging the tax credits that consumers utilizing the federal Health Insurance Marketplace receive to help make health insurance affordable. Consumers in thirty-four states, including Georgia, use the federal Marketplace to find and enroll in coverage. Nearly nine out of 10 people who enrolled in coverage through healthcare.gov received financial help and paid 75 percent less than the full monthly premium. This has helped bring the nation’s uninsured rate to an historic low.

 

A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute found that the majority of health care consumers who would be impacted and who would likely become uninsured if the tax credits were struck down live in the South. Here in Georgia, hundreds of thousands of people are at risk for becoming uninsured.

 

We believe there is no legal basis for this challenge and that in June, when a decision comes down, we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. If the court does, however, strike down the tax credits, such a decision would disproportionately impact the South and would put states like Georgia at a competitive disadvantage by exacerbating existing regional health disparities. If this comes to pass, Georgians for a Healthy Future will advocate for a contingency plan to ensure that Georgians have the same access to tax credits that their counterparts in states like New York, California, Colorado, and Kentucky (states that set up their own health insurance exchanges) have.

 

Our friends at Families USA have put together a resource page for advocates interested in learning more about King v. Burwell.


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Payment parity increases access

Georgia’s Medicaid patients could face longer wait times for doctor’s appointments without legislative action. That’s because a nation-wide bump in primary care provider reimbursement rates expired at the end of 2014, triggering a need for state action. This temporary rate bump resulted in an average eight percent increase in appointment availability, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study examined ten states, including Georgia, and concluded that payment rate increases are an effective strategy for enhancing access to primary care services. According to a participating physician in Texas, his practice was able to double the amount of Medicaid patients seen during the two year time the pay bump was in effect.  By restoring the rate bump, known as Medicaid payment parity, Georgia policymakers can help ensure patients get timely access to primary care in an appropriate setting and help keep patients from ending up in the emergency room.


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Network Adequacy: Action Alert

If you’ve been following the Peach Pulse you know that network adequacy is a hot topic in health care right now. (And if you missed it, check here and here to get caught up!) Decision-makers are weighing policy choices that will have implications for health care consumers in Georgia and across the nation. We know that they are hearing from health industry stakeholders; now they need to hear from you!

 

1) The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Proposed Rule on the 2016 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters is open for comment until December 22, 2014.  To submit a comment, click here.

 

2) The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is currently updating its model act on network adequacy. This model provides an example that states can use to enact their own legal protections to guarantee private insurance consumers an adequate provider network once they are enrolled in coverage. Advocates can email jmatthews@naic.org until January 12, 2015 with input.

 

Consumer advocates are asking these two entities to put in place 1) specific network adequacy standards such as time and distance standards and appointment wait time standards and 2) rules that provide consumers the right to go out-of-network at no extra cost if their plan cannot provide them timely, geographically accessible, and appropriate in-network care. Please take a few moments to submit your comments to HHS and to the NAIC with this important request. If your organization is interested in engaging more deeply on this issue, please contact Laura Colbert at lcobert@healthyfuturega.org to let us know you’re interested in collaborating.

 

 

 


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Strengthen Rural Access: Close the Coverage Gap

Rural hospitals provide the foundation for the economic vitality and population health of small communities throughout Georgia. Despite this essential role, the future of our rural hospitals-and the access to care they provide for rural Georgians-is in jeopardy. Eight rural hospitals have closed since 2001, four of them since the start of 2013.

 

While a comprehensive strategy is needed to address this problem, closing the coverage gap in Georgia would be an important first step to stabilizing our state’s rural hospitals and maintaining access to care for Georgians living in rural communities.

 

In a report we are submitting to the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee this week, Georgians for a Healthy Future, Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, Georgia Watch, Families First, and twelve additional consumer and community-focused nonprofits recommend that the committee seriously weigh the option to tap the federal dollars on the table for Georgia to close its coverage gap. Closing the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid would not only mean access to health insurance for low-income Georgians living in rural communities but would also trigger an infusion of federal dollars into rural hospitals to help them keep their doors open and serve their communities.

 

The Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, created by Governor Deal earlier this year to identify the needs of the rural hospital community and provide potential solutions; to increase the flow of communication between hospitals and the state; and improve access to care, is holding its third meeting tomorrow in Lavonia. If someone from your part of the state is serving on the committee, please consider asking them to support closing Georgia’s coverage gap.

 

Please also ask your State Representative and State Senator to support closing the coverage gap in Georgia.  Click here to send your state legislators a postcard that lets them know that you support closing Georgia’s coverage gap.

 

The full report to the committee is available here. Key facts from the report include:

 

  • In 2012, Georgia hospitals provided more than $1.6 billion in unpaid care, an increase of about $60 million from 2011. Most of this unpaid care goes to provide services to uninsured Georgians, many of whom fall in the coverage gap
  • Hospitals in states that have closed the coverage gap are projected to save up to $4.2 billion.Hospitals in states that have opted not to address their coverage gaps are projected to save a comparatively small $1.5 billion this year
  • Georgia’s hospitals could receive $1 billion more in Medicaid spending every year on behalf of newly-eligible Medicaid enrollees (those currently in the coverage gap)
  • If Georgia contributes the estimated $2.1 billion to implement Medicaid expansion, the State stands to gain a Federal infusion of $31 billion over the next ten years. This new federal money would help create more than 56,000 jobs statewide and generate more than $6.5 billion in new economic activity every year with the help of http://paydayloan-consolidation.com/.

 

 


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Network Adequacy Explained

When consumers enroll in a health insurance plan, they gain access to a network of medical providers. Insurance companies contract with a range of providers, including both primary care and specialty physicians, to deliver health care services included within the plan’s benefit package. This network of providers must be adequate to ensure that consumers enrolled in the plan have reasonable access to all covered benefits. This is what is meant by network adequacy. More specifically, to be considered adequate, a network must provide adequate numbers, types, and geographic distribution of providers; must ensure that access to care is timely; and must include essential community providers that serve predominantly low-income, medically underserved individuals. Additionally, accurate information about providers must be made available to consumers.

 

Network adequacy has become a hot topic over the past several months because many consumers who enrolled in new health plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace found that their plan came with a narrow network of providers. Provider directories weren’t always accurate or up-to-date, and consumers expressed a fair amount of confusion over which providers were in their plan’s network.

 

At the same time, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which develops model laws and rules that states often adopt, has been working to update its network adequacy model law. Stakeholders ranging from insurers to medical providers to patient and consumer advocates are weighing in on this process, making network adequacy a hot topic in the policy arena too. Georgians for a Healthy Future has been monitoring this process through the participation of our executive director as one of the consumer representatives to the NAIC. Earlier this summer, the consumer representatives submitted comments to the NAIC focusing on developing a stronger standard and better oversight of network adequacy, an end to “balance billing” by out-of-network providers in in-network facilities, and greater transparency of provider networks.

 

Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to monitor this process and will advocate at all levels, in conjunction with state and national partners, to ensure consumers have meaningful access to care.

 

If you are an individual consumer enrolled in a commercial health plan and the provider directory you were given was incorrect or if you have concerns about your ability to access covered services under your plan, please contact the Georgia Office of Insurance & Fire Safety, Consumer Services Division by calling (800) 656-2298 or use the Consumer Complaint Portal at www.oci.ga.gov/ConsumerService. Please also consider sharing your story with Georgians for a Healthy Future so we can get a better picture of what is happening in our state.

 

For more information on network adequacy, please see the following reports and resources:

From Georgetown Center on Health Insurance Reforms: Reforming State Regulation of Provider Networks: Efforts at the NAIC to Re-Draft a Model State Law

 

From Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Georgetown University Health Policy Institute: ACA Implications for State Network Adequacy Standards

 

From Families USA: Network Adequacy and Health Equity: Improving Private Health Insurance Networks for Communities of Color

 


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GHF in today’s AJC!

The following opinion piece by Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin originally appeared in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

 

Large majorities of young adults say they need and value health insurance, yet people in this age group are far more likely to be uninsured than children, seniors or older adults. Thirty-five percent of Georgians between 18 and 34 are uninsured. How can something so important be so elusive?

 

Until now, the health insurance of millenials had largely been neglected by public policy, leaving them with few options that provided adequate benefits at an affordable cost.

 

Most Americans get health insurance as a workplace benefit. They get a substantial employer contribution and receive these benefits on a pre-tax basis. Today’s young adults, however, are entering the job market in a tough economy. They are less likely to land jobs with health insurance. They often cobble together internships and part-time work to gain experience and make ends meet. For too many young adults, there simply has been no viable pathway to coverage.

 

The tide is turning. An estimated 3.1 million young adults nationwide — and 123,000 here in Georgia — have gained coverage as a direct result of an Affordable Care Act provision that allows parents to keep their children on policies up to age 26. This popular and effective public policy change was just a first step. The new health insurance exchanges will provide options for young adults who previously had nowhere to go.

 

These plans provide decent benefits and, in many cases, access to tax credits to make them affordable. The tax credits, available to individuals with annual incomes between $11,490 and $45,960, can be taken either at the time health insurance is purchased or at tax time. Some moderate-income individuals also can get help with out-of-pocket expenses.

 

For millenials who had been underwhelmed with the health insurance options available to them in the past, this is a breath of fresh air. For example, maternity coverage had been nearly impossible to secure in the Georgia non-group market for young couples ready to start a family. Now, this important benefit will be available.

 

While it is true some young adults enrolled in old plans may see higher premiums, many of those old plans didn’t provide adequate protection. Further, young adults who had a pre-existing chronic helath condition were locked out of the market entirely, a practice insurance companies must discontinue.

 

 The private insurance plans available through the exchanges won’t meet the needs of all young adults in Georgia. Those who have incomes that place them below the poverty line will likely remain uninsured unless Georgia expands its Medicaid program.

 

Most young adults want what Americans of all ages want: the peace of mind that comes with knowing that an unexpected cancer diagnosis or accident doesn’t equal financial ruin, and that they have access to basic medical services. The new coverage options are finally leveling the playing field for this generation. It’s about time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Medicaid expansion could be a game changer for Georgians with mental illness

Georgia ranks 9th in the nation in the number of uninsured adults with a mental illness who could gain coverage through the Medicaid expansion, according to a new report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The NAMI report describes the barriers that people with mental illness face in accessing services and the important role that Medicaid plays in connecting people to services so they can be healthy and productive members of their communities. Expanding Medicaid in Georgia is a major opportunity to change the lives of more than 86,000 low-income uninsured adults with mental illness in Georgia–if you haven’t already, please sign the petition in support of expanding Medicaid in Georgia and join us in our campaign to Cover Georgia!  The full NAMI report on Medicaid and mental health is available here.

Please do help, share awareness and spread kindness. Feel free to visit About Leslie Zebel
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